Quinn to make budget cuts Wednesday


Gov. Pat Quinn said Monday he will make “serious cuts” in state spending Wednesday, although he declined to give any specifics.

Quinn said he will take action on the state budget Wednesday afternoon, the last day of the state’s current fiscal year. The new budget goes into effect Thursday.

“We will be announcing our decisions, probably on Wednesday, of how much money we can allocate to education, how much to health care, how much to public safety and all of the other priorities,” Quinn said.

Exactly what he will allocate to each area is another question. As he has before, Quinn said he will do what he can to protect education spending, although the State Board of Education last week announced $300 million in cuts to education programs.

“Last year, we had an effort by the General Assembly to cut human services in half. It was heartless,” Quinn added. “I hope we can prevent any kind of severe cuts in human services or any other important services to people.”

The problem for Quinn is that the bulk of state spending is in education and health care programs.

The state’s budget problems are further aggravated by Congress’ failure to approve a new stimulus bill, which would have included money to help states with Medicaid expenses. Illinois was counting on about $750 million from the program.

“We’re still working on that one,” Quinn said. “We’re working with the U.S. Senate. They should, in my judgment, pass this stimulus measure.”

The only area Quinn specifically said would be cut is “bureaucracy,” but he provided no details.

“There are serious cuts in the bureaucracy of state government,” Quinn said. “We’re going to have to tighten the belt as tight as it can be.”

The state budget has been a moving target ever since lawmakers approved it in late May. The General Assembly chose to allocate money in lump sums and leave it up to Quinn to make ends meet. As part of those budget powers, Quinn also has authority to borrow money from restricted state funds and use it to pay other expenses.

Even with those measures, lawmakers figured the state would have about $6 billion in unpaid bills next year at this time. That was before the General Assembly failed to come up with a way to make $3.7 billion in payments to state pension systems in the new budget. Quinn wanted to borrow money for the payments, but the Senate has yet to approve that idea.

Quinn said he is still trying to convince enough senators to support the plan.

Doug Finke can be reached at 788-1527.